Tag: writing

How to act like a human (for dogs)

One- stand up: Humans have two legs. Don’t walk around on all fours

Two- wear clothes: “Put some clothes on, no one wants to see that thing!” is what humans say to naked humans. REMEMBER: No shirt, no shoes, no service.

Three- buddy up: smaller dogs- stand on top of each other and wear a trench coat. Humans will mistake you for an adult human.

Four- NO FAKE MUSTACHES (unless you are a hairless breed): Seriously, you have hair on your face already. Fake mustaches will make you look silly.

Five- learn to talk: DO NOT say, “Hello, I am a dog.” That will give you away immediately. Some helpful phrases: “I would like a number four with bacon.” “Supersize it.” “more bacon, please”

TWO THINGS

Two creative exercises done while walking

ONE:

weird characters I came up with this week that I have no intention in using for anything but would like to keep record of.

1. A three year old girl who wants to be an old woman. she dresses up in a cotton shawl and a cane with an orthopedic grip. She stuffs her grandma’s old Dr. Scholl’s into some flat shoes and carries around a huge purse stuffed with moth balls, Kleenex, loose change and Werther’s Originals.

2. Okay so you know the movie Kickass? This is like that except for a nerdy girl who is way too into magical girl anime and manga. I don’t know how she deals with the transformation sequence. I do know that instead of trying to beat up crime bosses, she just shows up and lectures them on Love and Truth and Justice.

3. Someone is featured on My Strange Addiction for their addiction to watching My Strange Addiction

 

TWO

walking along, I hear one side of a phone conversation. It went something like “… This ain’t New York, this ain’t Vegas, this ain’t Rome, This ain’t Paris…” And I thought, what an inefficient list.  There is no end. To wit:

A further list of places This ain’t:

1 Ohio

2. Hollywood

3. Gary, Indiana

4. Buda

5. the bottom of the ocean

6. no disco

7. no country club either

8. the head of a pin

9 a closet to a magical realm

10 a plain old closet

11. the moon

12. the shoe what That Old Woman Who Someone Should’ve Called Social Services On lived in with all them kids

13. grandma’s house

14. a bathtub

15. the produce aisle at HEB

And so on. See what I mean? no end.

Write like a _____

Writing, huh? It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. Your butt has to be in a chair. Bring a notebook everywhere you go. Write like a motherfucker.

 

Yes. Yes yes yes yes.

 

I truly believe in all of that. Not just for writing, but for anything that’s worth doing. Invest your time. Large chunks of it, if you can. If not, steal what little minutes you have: on the bus to your draining job, while sat up sick in bed. Take advantage of your chronic insomnia.

 

But. but.

 

What about the time you are not writing? What if you set a little bit of time aside just for getting a story down on paper, or a poem (or, in my case, a 90 second pun-filled speech that I need to write by May 9th ) and you don’t get anything done? You balance a pencil on your nose. You take your dog out for a walk. You eavesdrop on stranger’s conversations on that long bus ride. Your friends want to go out for a drink after work and all of a sudden it’s 1am and you haven’t even opened up a word document.

 

Is that unproductive? Writer’s block? Have you wasted your time?

 

I have been a turtle all of my life. I hide in my shell. I move slowly. So slowly, in fact, that I am often overlooked. I am deliberate in my actions. I do not let go of anything I grasp until I am completely done with it.

 

It bothered me to no end for the longest time to see everyone else speed past me. Still does to some extent. For the most part I have become comfortable in my own shell. Here is what I have learned in my 28 years of moving slowly and steadily: There is more to creating than action.

 

There is the time spent inside your own head, the time spent becoming comfortable with your own self. How could you make something of your own without this? The only audience you ever have control over is the audience of you. How can you be satisfied with your work until you know what you will enjoy most? How can you make something meaningful without discovering the engine that fuels you, without experimenting with different power sources for that engine?

 

There is also the time you spend outside of your head. That time spent listening to conversations- paying such close attention that you not only understand what people talk about but how: the word choice and the cadence- is the only way you could ever learn to write good dialogue. How could you describe a tree to another person without carefully examining every strip of bark, every vein in every leaf? How can you have a vibrant cast of characters without having vibrant, diverse relationships in your life, relationships that need care and cultivation to thrive?

 

I remember, after reading from my thesis, being asked how long it took me to write a particular story. I remember saying “Two years.” What became my final very short story took me one afternoon to write from start to finish. There was a lot cut, but everything that remains was written in that first draft. I did the hard work of writing it. My fingers cramped, I killed my darlings, I did not move my butt. I worked until I was satisfied and then began the hard work of finding it a home.

 

But first I had to do the hardest work of all. I had to do the work of living. I had to sit very still and notice everything. I had to notice myself. I had to be okay with pulling my head far enough out of my shell to share my story. I had to make dear friends and advisors who I could talk to. I needed to tell someone how afraid I was to tell my own story and why. I needed them to tell me to shut up about it.

 

I needed to see with my own eyes that I wasn’t the only one of me that existed. That if I wrote down how I feel and what I see there would be someone else who understands. “You are not alone” is a hard lesson to learn. It is also one that you have to re-learn over and over again, every time you hide yourself away to write, or draw, or do whatever wonderful thing it is that you do.

 

It is hard to remember that you are actually doing something when you look at nothing but blank pages and see submission dates fly by. When you are getting too old to ever be on the “10 under 10” lists of awesome young writers. It is hard to remember- to be conscious of the fact- that sitting still is also listening and paying attention and gathering information and waiting. It is also living, and loving-or hating- something so much that you want to tell everyone about it. Write often, yes. Or draw or dance or act or paint or make spreadsheets. But don’t discount the quiet time when your page is blank and your mind seems clear. Hard work is being done.

What is the first story that you never wanted to leave?

I’ve written about The Little Mermaid before.  I saw it when it came out in theaters. I wore out two VHS tapes rewinding and fast forwarding. (VHS is what we had before DVDs, guys). I daydreamed of having cooking shows with that French chef.  I related to Ariel and wanted to be Ursula:

I loved Ariel, I loved how she collected junk and I loved how she had a tail and adventures and a loving family but still didn’t feel normal, still wanted to have a body that made more sense to her. Like Me. I loved Ariel but I secretly loved Ursula more. Ursula was a freaky monster who lived in a cave and was a powerful witch who didn’t care that she was alone and weird because she knew how cool she was.

All of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytales contain themes of otherness, social ostracism, isolation and salvation. The cool thing about his stories is that at the end the poor unfortunate protagonists find a place to be themselves. The ugly duckling would never have been happy living with the ducks, but he found a group of swans who accepted him for who he is. The little mermaid knew she would never be happy as a mermaid, and is willing to give up everything she has to find a world that makes sense to her. (The prince is secondary to gaining a soul.)

Of course, in Anderson’s story she gave up too much for too little and ended up not connecting to the humans (due to literally not being able to communicate). It’s not until she dies that she finds her place and purpose. Much like with The Ugly Duckling, the daughters of the air recognize the mermaid as one of their own. The reward isn’t her being accepted by the group she tries so hard to fit into, it is having a different group recognize her for her own merits and celebrating her uniqueness.

Of course three year old me only had the Disney version with the more conventional happy ending, prince and all. Still, I think the creative team behind the movie was able to express Ariel’s yearning to be “where the people are” clearly enough for three year old me to recognize and relate to it. I knew Ariel because I was Ariel: on the outside looking in, wanting to feel comfortable in my skin, wanting to live in a world that made more sense to me than the crazy magical one around me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how stories sink their claws into you and don’t let go. I’ve also been thinking about how adults don’t often give toddlers enough credit. I taught 4-7 year olds art this summer and I saw how their little brains worked all day. I saw how they played make believe to make sense of the world around them. I saw them reverse engineer origami and pop up cards. One of my favorites (I’m not supposed to have favorites but I do and they can’t read blogs anyway so whatever) taught herself how to make a diorama based on the credits scene of a movie she saw.

And I talked to them about stories all the time because, come on, it’s me. Every one of them loved the Lego Movie, loved how it was about creating wonderful things. We read them a book about Frida Kahlo’s life that focused on her physical ailments and how she made paintings to express how she felt on the inside. The next day, there were a handful of little artists who wanted to grow up to be Frida.

I talked with my mom about it this morning, asked her what was her “Little Mermaid.” First she was all, “we didn’t have home videos back in my day, bla bla bla. But I asked her, “What is the first story in any media that you never wanted to leave?” and I asked her, “Why?” I will let her tell her own story, but I will tell you this: What she told me was the same. It wasn’t the magical elements, but something that connected to her on a personal level, something that reflected on how she felt about herself.

I’m really liking hearing these stories, so I’m going to ask you: What is the first story you never wanted to leave? Why?

OTHER PEOPLE’S STORIES

GINA MINKS WANTS TO LIVE IN THE SECRET GARDEN.

I fixed the horoscops

(From Rob Brezsney’s “Free Will Astrology: for Oct 17-23” Page 110 of the Austin Chronicle)

Scorpio: Late summer apple tree. A branch. Later, this gravity. Fast the space of him, his omens would be comparable.

Sagittarius: Most birds don’t sing. Somewhere that isn’t this mottled tune, this creature deserves you: human, detached, above your own rough-and-tumble.

Capricorn: Let’s discus the thing you are about without possessing it. Play here.

Aquarius: Remain persistently insoluble. You have made a heart of questions. They replace the lock.

Pisces:

Ares: New York city is home to lost treasure: valuable bits fallen off broken, tweezers and a butter knife, rich pickings, sidewalk cracks and gutters. “The street is mine,” he says.

Taurus:

Gemini: The word at the climax. The catalyst that makes no real sorcery. An incantation authentic to possibility.

Cancer: Modern tradition: “I think I am almost nothing.” He said that is who we want, the heart of our omens.

Leo: You can’t give. You can sort, but that’s nothing. What you want: feel your generosity missing.

Virgo: That one of you will be the rest. Play on the trap. Get tangled up on the cold and unhelpful with their pain.

Libra: Author this realization: things left seed. A caretaker of your other things, you are within yourself. Take anything.

List: certanties in life other than death and taxes *


1.  baby teeth
2.  thirst
3.  hunger
4.  loss
5.  calluses
6.  alienation
7.  breast milk
8.  belly button lint
9.  yearning
10. sand getting into crevices
11. bad movies
12. hair loss
13. indigestion
14. laughter
15. darkness
16. popcorn getting stuck in teeth
17. missing socks
18. pain
19. hope
20. misunderstandings

*based on current life. I don’t care about “in the future blah blah blah”

Outside my front door, 6pm on Saturday

 

It has been raining here an awful lot for a town that’s in a drought. (not that we are no longer in a drought, just like your being well-employed does not cancel out the recession.) When it isn’t raining the weather is unbearable. Not because of the heat, but because of the dryness. (With my eczema I would take humidity over this any day. Not to mention that my hair looks so flat now.) But yesterday was rather nice and warm and didn’t bother me much at all. I sat for a while with my dog in the front yard in an attempt to enjoy the day while avoiding the mosquito colony in the back. He wandered around, peed on the tree. I sat on the steps and watched him.

Overall it is a nice place to be on nice days. What I would like is a bigger porch with a swing that I could sit on while my dog lays near my feet. It would also be nice if I had an old tire on a length of rope that I could hang on a tree branch. The branches are too thin to hold the weight of anyone above the age of three but it’s really about the image it would create and not necessarily about functionality.